The Corona del Mar High boys’ golf team is used to feeling the heat of the moment.
Last season, the Sea Kings won the CIF Southern Section South Coast Division team championship.
After moving from the Pacific Coast League this year, Sea Kings coach Mike Starkweather thought that the road leading up to the postseason might get easier, but it has not turned out that way.
“We have kind of jumped out of the frying pan into a fire,” Starkweather said. “We played in the Pacific Coast League last year and several years before that, which was a highly-contested league, probably the toughest league.
“I thought that we were going to get off a little easier coming over here and playing in the Sunset League, but it hasn’t turned out to be that way at all.”
Through three league matches, CdM had posted a pair of wins, both of which came by a single point. The Sea Kings have had their battles this season, but they have managed to stay on top.
Sonoma State commit T.J. Jenkins was the medalist with a one-under-par 34 on Thursday, and CdM defeated Newport Harbor 186-204 at Newport Beach Country Club.
The Sea Kings (10-1, 3-1 in league) capped a league sweep of their Back Bay rivals, having won the first meeting at Newport Harbor’s home course of Mesa Linda by a final of 184-185 on April 2.
“This is a huge win,” Jenkins said. “I think our team was more just walking the walk and letting the other team talk. We brought it today, definitely. We played pretty dang good today.”
The first hole was a contentious one in the final grouping. Two-time defending Sunset League champion Ethan Barnes, a UC Santa Barbara commit, began his round with a tee shot that missed the fairway.
He played a provisional ball in case he could not find the first. In looking for his ball near some flowerbeds, the CdM pairing of Colin Huang and Jenkins notified Barnes that they felt he had run out of the allotted three-minute period to look for his original.
On his way back from the flowerbeds, Barnes came across his ball near the bunker.
“He was trying to play it, but they said it was past three minutes,” said Campbell Norris, who was paired with Barnes. “The thing was, it wasn’t definitive. There wasn’t any proof. They didn’t have a timer, which you are supposed to do.
“They said that it was certainly just off their own timer, so to speak. It was controversial, for sure.”
At the end of the round, Barnes was assessed a two-stroke penalty. Norris said that the dispute early on became a distraction that defined the round.
Barnes struggled to a score of 41. Norris, who carded a 37, was the only player for Newport Harbor (4-4, 1-2) to shoot in the 30s.
Starkweather said that the greens had recently been punched and sanded for aeration, which made it difficult for the golfers to score low with their putter.
Huang managed to make the putt a non-issue on No. 4, when he sent his approach shot on the par-three to within five feet of the hole.
“It was kind of getting heated,” Huang said. “I could feel it. Everyone could feel it coming down the first four holes. I think I made a birdie on No. 3, and I could see that they were getting frustrated, so I really wanted to put some more heat on them, get in a groove for the Sea Kings.
“I saw T.J. after, and I was like, ‘Let’s just keep it going.’ It was a big hole for the round.”
Huang shot 36. Freshmen John Tipton and Calder Overfelt posted scores of 37 and 39, respectively, to give the Sea Kings four competitors in the 30s.